with Che Guevara Lynch
By Arthur Quinlan
Last October much publicity surrounded the
thirtieth anniversary of the death of legendary revolutionary,
Che Guevara. Known as Dr. Che Guevara Lynch to his Irish supporters,
the Argentinean had helped bring Fidel Castro to power in
Cuba before being murdered by Bolivian troops while trying
to spark off a revolution there. In death he became the revolutionary
icon of the 1960s. Two years previously he was in Ireland
and, according to John Horgan of the Sunday Tribune, was the
subject of "one of the great missed scoops of Irish journalism".
Quin native and veteran 'Irish Times' reporter, Arthur Quinlan,
now sets the record straight, thirty three years to the day
that he met Guevara.
from being "one of the great missed scoops of Irish journalism",
as so described in the Sunday Tribune, Dr. Che Guevara, the
Latin American revolutionary was interviewed by me when he
arrived at Shannon Airport on Saturday, March 13th, 1965.
He was with a group of 71 passengers on a Cuban Airlines Britannia
aircraft which developed mechanical trouble on arrival from
Prague on the way to Havana. He was accompanied by his fellow
revolutionary, Dr. Osmani Cienfuegos, the Cuban Minister for
Construction and some other Cuban friends who were government
I was alerted to the arrival by an American journalist, Bob
Loughlin, who had a small PR business with an office at the
Shannon Development Company. I later suspected that he may
have been a member of the C.l.A.. He would not tell me on
the telephone the name of the VIP until I arrived at the airport.
Then, Mr. Loughlin explained that it was Che Guevara but warned
that he would say that he did not speak English.
I had little trouble in recognising Castro's Comandante of
the Revolution at the Airport Hotel. However, as expected
he indicated that he did not speak English .
"Anybody whose maternal grandparents were Lynches wither
speaks Gaelic or English. Which is it to be", I said
to him with a smile. He returned my smile and suggested that
we walk out by the lagoon behind the hotel.
I did not learn very much from him for he would not speak
on politics or where he had been. Later it was learned that
he had been to the former Belgian Congo leading a covert but
unsuccessful intervention in their civil war and was on his
Dr. Guevara talked of his Irish connections through the name
Lynch. He said, if I recall, that his grandparents or great-grandparents
on his mothers side had left Galway for the Argentine. His
were a well off family in the city of Alta Gracia and he qualified
as a Doctor.
His name was Ernesto but he was given the nickname Che when
he began to mix with Cubans. The Cubans usually put this tag
on Argentineans in the same way that the Irish are sometimes
He was 37 years old when I met him at Shannon and when the
"ice was broken" he wanted to go with a few friends
to "see the night life". Later that Saturday he
went to Limerick City and adjourned to the Hanratty's Hotel
on Glentworth Street. They returned that evening all wearing
sprigs of Shamrock, for Shannon and Limerick were preparing
for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
Later he met up with Bernie Brennan, an Irish American journalist
from a Miami newspaper who had been a guest of the late Vincent
Tobin, who was then Press Relations Manager with the Shannon
Development Company. Mr. Brennan had spent much time in Cuba
and it was generally believed that he was something of a "double
agent" who had served the American C.l.A..
It was understood from those who were present that his was
something of an uneasy meeting with the Cuban revolutionary.
He left the hotel with Mr. Tobin and Dr Che Guevara and his
friends flew on to Havana the next day. The Cuban aircraft
has returned from the Bristol Britannia company in England
where repairs had been carried out.
By Joe O'Muircheartaigh
the mid eighties a newspaper carried a story about a man
born in 1928 by the name of Ernesto Guevara Lynch. The report
honed in on the Irish connections of a remarkable man who
was feared, respected and known the world over. The revolutionary
exploits of one Che Guevara were the stuff of legend.
He was a real life rebel in the mould Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid, the famous outlaws immortalised on screen
by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Having resettled in Bolivia,
they finally perished in the face of bullets from Bolivian
soldiers. Guevara was to suffer the same fate.
The similarities didn't end there. Butch and Sundance were
figures of love and hate, as was Che. Love him or hate him,
you can't ignore him. That was Che Guevara Lynch.
In Central and Latin America he stood as a symbol against
American economic policies. He then wanted to take this
opposition further in the shape of armed insurrection. He
did this and in death became the martyr of international
To this day, posters, tee shirts and broaches of this rebel,
who always seemed to have a cause, are as popular as ever.
He represented the radicalism in the 1960s and to some he
is still seen as the man who challenged authority and won.
The cries of 'Viva Che', heard so loudly during the student
riots in Paris in 1968 can still be identified with some
thirty years later.
Where did it all come from. Che's father, Don Ernesto Guevara
Lynch, put the revolutionary instincts which led him to
Cuba, the Congo and ultimately to death in Bolivia-down
to his Irish ancestry. "The first thing to note is
that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels",
he said in a 1969 interview.
He went on: "Che inherited some of the features of
our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature
which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures
and new ideas".
These ideas prompted him to turn his back on medicine and
rugby. He had graduated from Buenos Aires National University
as a doctor in 1953 and at that stage was being touted as
possible rugby international. There is no record of him
ever playing hurling, even though hurling flourished in
Buenes Aires up until the 1 940s.
His position was scrum half, the "Petit Generale"
like Jack Fouroux. However, he ultimately left rugby in
favour of being a general of revolution. As a self-titled
'Soldier of the Americas' he was playing for a bigger team
and for higher stakes.
The stakes were never any higher than when he landed in
Cuba in 1956.
Guevara was working as a reporter in Mexico when he met
Fidel and Raul Castro. The rest was history - he sailed
with the Castros to launch the Cuban Revolution, became
a Cuban citizen and a government minister.
But what of his Irishness. The common currency doing the
rounds is that Guevara's Irish links can be traced to Galway.
Patricio Lynch, the founder of the Argentine branch of his
family, was said to be born in Galway in 1715. From there
he spent some time in Spain before eventually settling in
Argentina. The Lynch name has been there ever since.
Another theory is that Che's Irishness was not that far
removed and that his grandparents or great-grandparents
on his mother's side (as alluded to by Arthur Quinlan and
others) were born in Ireland.
And was it definitely Galway ? Well, the aforementioned
newspaper report has the compass pointed further south,
in Clare to precise. It suggested that Che Guevara's ancestors
actually hailed from the Kilkee area of West Clare.
The article also claimed that Guevara had visited Kilkee
as a young man - in his pre revolutionary days - in the
company of his mother and spent some time in the old Victoria
That such a visit actually took place is not outside the
bounds of possibility. It is well documented that during
his medical training, Guevara developed a passion for travel
- a passion that could be satisfied in his younger days
because of family wealth.
It could be that he travelled to Ireland in the company
of his mother who may have been keen to trace their Irish
links. And, there are plenty of Lynch's in West Clare. Maybe
somebody out there knows the real answer.